You do not want statistics to know that health-related misinformation is rampant on social media, together with with respect to COVID-19. However listed here are some jarring examples anyway: Statistics Canada reported that almost all Canadians noticed COVID-19 misinformation on-line; just one in 5 Canadians all the time test the accuracy of on-line COVID-19 data; and half of Canadians shared COVID-19 data they discovered on-line with out realizing whether or not it was correct.
These statistics are usually not trivial, as misinformation can endanger public well being. Many damaging myths about COVID-19 have circulated on social media, for instance:
COVID-19 can unfold by 5G cellular networks (viruses can’t journey by radio waves or cellular networks);
mRNA COVID-19 vaccines can change your DNA (nope, that’s severely not how they work); and
COVID-19 vaccines can negatively have an effect on fertility in ladies or males (there’s no proof for this declare).
Well being misinformation and conspiracy theories do actual injury. They’ve been linked to a decreased probability of following public well being recommendation, similar to sporting masks, and may affect well being choices, such because the probability to get influenza vaccines and intent to get COVID-19 vaccines.
On this vein, well being misinformation can gas vaccine hesitancy, which the World Well being Group has listed as one of many high 10 threats to international well being. That risk turns into very clear and really speedy within the context of COVID-19. With vaccination packages underway, vaccine hesitancy might threaten the aim of herd immunity, which is essential to ending the pandemic.
Organizations together with the federal authorities and the Ontario Medical Affiliation are involved sufficient about vaccine hesitancy to particularly handle it by funding and advocacy, and the World Well being Group has dubbed the extent of misinformation on-line an “infodemic.”
(World Well being Group, 2020), CC BY-NC
There’s a very actual want to make sure that dependable, evidence-based data is as obtainable, plentiful and accessible as misinformation, and that it travels as shortly on-line. That’s exactly the aim of the #ScienceUpFirst initiative: to supply, assist and enhance correct scientific data on-line to assist individuals make knowledgeable well being choices.
Championing evidence-based public well being
The #ScienceUpFirst venture started when public well being scholar Timothy Caulfield, Canada Analysis Chair in Well being Legislation and Coverage on the College of Alberta, and Senator Stanley Kutcher of Nova Scotia recruited a nationwide coalition of scientists, communicators and well being consultants to empower Canadians to work collectively towards misinformation about COVID-19 and COVID-19 vaccines.
As a scientific psychologist with an curiosity in science communication and health-related misinformation, I used to be honoured to affix the group within the service of these targets, together with different professionals who’re independently represented from an array of Canadian universities and organizations. Operationally, the venture is supported by the Canadian Affiliation of Science Centres, COVID-19 Sources Canada and the Well being Legislation Institute on the College of Alberta.
(ScienceUpFirst), Creator supplied
The bilingual marketing campaign makes use of the net hashtags #ScienceUpFirst and #LaScienceDAbord on social media platforms together with Twitter, Instagram and Fb, and can finally embrace TikTok. In essence, #ScienceUpFirst makes use of social media to advertise and amplify the most effective obtainable science-based content material, in an effort to debunk misinformation.
The preliminary aim of the marketing campaign is to observe evidence-based tips to focus on misinformation and conspiracy theories particularly associated to COVID-19 vaccines, virus transmission and authorities response. Finally, the framework might be utilized past the COVID-19 pandemic to handle different sorts of health- and science-related misinformation.
On the social media stage, the marketing campaign seeks out, evaluates and boosts present, evidence-based content material, with the intention of participating Canadians to assist to share and amplify that content material on social media. Importantly, this entails efforts to adapt content material and be certain that it displays and speaks to the various socio-demographic that includes the Canadian inhabitants.
The venture will even observe trending misinformation and reply swiftly with corrected content material created as a part of the #ScienceUpFirst initiative.
Is it price it?
Addressing misinformation is certainly well worth the effort. Analysis reveals that debunking works and might be efficient whether it is completed accurately.
This implies utilizing evidence-based ways when crafting a message to counter misinformation. These embrace, however are usually not restricted to: offering the science, utilizing clear and shareable content material, referencing reliable sources, noting the scientific consensus and its evolution, incorporating narrative and story, main with information, being good and genuine and highlighting gaps in logic and rhetorical gadgets.
Easy methods to take part
The #ScienceUpFirst motion just isn’t passive, however is an ongoing, interactive venture designed to thrive on Canadians’ participation.
There are 3 ways individuals may also help amplify evidence-based data, and debunk misinformation with #ScienceUpFirst:
Observe @ScienceUpFirst on Twitter, Instagram and Fb, and have interaction with and share content material utilizing the hashtag #ScienceUpFirst or #LaScienceDAbord.
Tag @ScienceUpFirst in COVID-19 science-based posts and misinformation posts on all social media channels.
Go to www.ScienceUpFirst.com to join a weekly e-newsletter.
The venture launched on the finish of January, and garnered over 8,500 posts and greater than 42 million views throughout social media platforms in its first week.
Well being professionals and scientists have an moral duty to advertise and practise evidence-based affected person care and public well being. A part of that mission contains calling out and correcting misinformation on-line by way of science communication on social media.
We welcome and encourage everybody to affix us.
Jonathan N. Stea doesn’t work for, seek the advice of, personal shares in or obtain funding from any firm or organisation that will profit from this text, and has disclosed no related affiliations past their tutorial appointment.